Typing Faster

February 4, 2011

Joss Whedon’s Top Ten Screenwriting Tips

Filed under: Craft, Features, Joss Whedon, Stuff I Like — petertypingfaster @ 12:12 pm

Amazing post over on Danny Stack’s place listing Joss Whedon’s top ten writing tips. Worth a read for any writer, whether or not you’re a fan of Whedon’s work (and let’s face it, if you’re a screenwriter you probably are).

Of particular note for me were:

Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure.

If you can’t finish it, then what’s the point? This is so often the case with new writers I meet. I ask them what they’ve written and they tell me about all these great ideas they have. I ask to read something, and they say they’re still trying to finish all those great ideas.

If you want to write, you need to finish stuff. End of story.

Structure means knowing where you’re going; making sure you don’t meander about. Some great films have been made by meandering people, like Terrence Malick and Robert Altman, but it’s not as well done today and I don’t recommend it. I’m a structure nut. I actually make charts. Where are the jokes? The thrills? The romance? Who knows what, and when? You need these things to happen at the right times, and that’s what you build your structure around: the way you want your audience to feel. Charts, graphs, coloured pens, anything that means you don’t go in blind is useful.

I’m a structure nazi. Nine times out of ten, when I read a script that’s struggling it’s due to structural problems. It might not have a clear through line, it might be trying to juggle too many timelines, either way I’m pretty sure the writer didn’t bother to outline first.

Outline your scripts folks. It makes writing so, so, so much easier.

Here’s one trick that I learned early on. If something isn’t working, if you have a story that you’ve built and it’s blocked and you can’t figure it out, take your favourite scene, or your very best idea or set-piece, and cut it. It’s brutal, but sometimes inevitable. That thing may find its way back in, but cutting it is usually an enormously freeing exercise.

Oh yeah. If it’s good enough for Mark Twain, it’s good enough for you.

The rest of Joss’ advice is equally good. You should head over to Danny’s place and check it out.


September 17, 2010

ScriptShadow Tells You How To Write For A-List Actors

Filed under: Craft — petertypingfaster @ 7:00 am

ScriptShadow is a great, albeit controversial, site (run by a guy by the name of Carson Reeves) that breaks down and reviews new scripts. It’s a great place to go for one man’s insightful analysis of what’s working and what’s not in the current crop of movies.

Sometimes they’ll post pure nuggets of writerly advice, like a recent post on how to write for an A-List actor. I think Carson’s bang on when he says that “…there’s no quicker way to get your script sold or made into a movie than to attach a star”, so what can you do to increase your chances?

Carson does all of us writers a favor by breaking down the most recent roles of 25 A-List actors in an attempt to see if there are any commonalities. So what does he find out? What kind of things tend to attract top level talent to a given project?

First of all, the role has to be challenging in some capacity. True, many of these actors are slapping down product in the middle of the summer where mediocrity reigns supreme, but that doesn’t mean they want neutered down roles. These thespians have gotten to the top of the heap by playing dozens if not hundreds of characters. They’re looking for something new and different. Brad Pitt plays a character not only at many different ages in his life, but plays those ages on a reverse timeframe. That’s challenging stuff. Denzel Washington plays a character who rarely speaks, who emotes only with his eyes and his actions. That’s a challenge. DiCaprio operates in a dreamworld where he’s imprisoned his wife. Every time he then goes into that dreamworld, he’s faced with a sea of conflicting emotions.

Next up, I think your character needs to be heroic. A lot of these characters are saving other people. I hate to state the obvious but actors are very egotistical. They want to play God and save others. There’s nothing more heroic than that. Just remember, heroism doesn’t always mean stopping an asteroid from hitting earth. It can mean delivering the last bible across a post-apocalyptic U.S. It can mean committing suicide to have your organs save seven other people. Whether you’re saving a nation or saving others, look for ways to make your characters heroic.

The last thing I noticed was that characters should have something going on inside of them as well as outside. Running around shooting people is fun but it’s not stretching any acting muscles. You gotta give’em some toys to play with upstairs. Benjamin Button has an ongoing physical transformation as well as having to deal with the realities of being different from everyone else. Denzel Washington gets to shred people into sushi yet must learn to open himself up to others. Tom Cruise gets to fly around on cars but still must learn to be selfless before he can find happiness. Note how in two of these cases (Cruise and Washington’s) the internal stuff is tied to the character arc and in Benjamin’s case, it’s more of a general internal battle that never arcs. That’s fine. Whether you’re arcing your character or not, at the very least, give them some kind of issue they’re struggling with internally.

It’s pretty obvious stuff really, but worth mentioning again and again until we all remember it.

July 23, 2010

What Happened To Television’s Snarky Teen Girl?

Filed under: Craft — petertypingfaster @ 7:00 am

If you were alive in the late ’90s, and watched copious amounts of TV, chances are you’ve seen Daria. A spin-off of Beavis and Butt-head, Daria had more in common with shows like My So-Called Life than the show it spun off from.

Daria was a great show. It had well drawn, interesting characters, interesting and varied storytelling, and as hilarious to boot. The real reason people watched it, however, was for Daria herself.

An article in The Paris Review sums it up nicely:

Daria dwells near the bottom of the caste system—somewhere between the geeks and art kids—at her suburban school. With her round glasses, sarcastic monotone, and chunky black boots, she is equally disaffected and defensive—an outsider who’s smarter than most everyone in her town. In the pilot episode, she quips, “I don’t have low self-esteem, I have low esteem for everyone else.” Of her peers, she explains: “I’m not miserable, I’m just not like them.” Her lack of pep makes her an outcast not only at school, but at home, where she’s the black sheep to Quinn, her younger, more attractive, and socially ambitious sister. But Daria is no loser; she stands up for herself, doesn’t care about the social hierarchy, and has no trouble speaking her mind or talking back. She has a sidekick and confidant—Jane Lane—and while Jane’s brother Trent is something of a crush for Daria, boys are far from the main topic of their conversations.

Daria’s character originally appeared as a foil to the characters on Beavis and Butthead. In the extra features of the DVD, Glenn Eichler, the executive producer (who’s now at The Colbert Report), said that “MTV was looking for a show that would appeal to its female viewership.” After all, this was the bikini and booty-shaking Spring Break era of MTV, and as another writer mentions, the network wanted a show that would make girls appear smart. The creators of Daria cast around, looking at other teen characters on television—Darlene Conner from Roseanne, Angela Chase from My So-Called Life—and noticed something: teen girls were portrayed as fully realized people, and not mini-adults.

I have a soft spot for well drawn, sarcastic young female characters. From Daria, to Veronica Mars, to Juno, there’s something delightful (and delightfully entertaining!) about shows that revolve around these kinds of characters. Unfortunately they’re all too infrequent.

So where did all the Darias go? Eight years after the show went off the air, the super-smart, dry, withering, righteously angry girls are largely absent from pop culture. For every sassy adolescent as played by Juno’s Ellen Page, our current teen cultural landscape is clogged with heroines whose principal interests, as on Gossip Girl, are status and men. It’s a transition that happened gradually from the late nineties to the present: There was the dry-humored Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the earnest clique on Dawson’s Creek, Mean Girls, the teen magazines that brazenly suggested $400 APC wedges for fifteen year-olds, the endless YA series that read like junior versions of Danielle Steel novels.

Daria’s brand of snide sarcasm seemed realistic to her audience and probably edgy to advertisers. But over the ensuing years, her trademark snarky voice was everywhere. On LiveJournals and on MySpace pages, teenage girls could rant about the high school caste system or proudly proclaim their every disaffected mood to virtual friends. And on blogs like Gawker, the grown-up popular crowd—celebrities, the wealthy, the media elite—were skewered in an often deadpan voice.

Only it had hardened into something more mean-spirited. The tone was caustic in weekly tabloids or on websites like Perez Hilton’s that wondered aloud whether starlets were with child or just bloated. Over the past decade, being overly sarcastic wasn’t just considered out of fashion, it was seen as a social problem. David Denby called snark “a nasty, knowing strain of abuse spreading like pinkeye through the national conversation.” But Daria—both the character and the tenor of the show—was full of nuance: outraged, sullen, eye-rolling, but also, like most teenagers, tender when you least expect it. These days, teen culture can be about sex (The Hills), or optimism (Glee), or vampires, but it seems to have no place for a snarky teen girl.

It’s an interesting take, one that I’m not sure I completely subscribe to, but it got me thinking!

March 25, 2010

Back to School: Why Colleges Are Offering Classes on The Wire

Filed under: Craft, Future of TV, Stuff I Like, The Wire — petertypingfaster @ 9:09 am

Everyone that knows me is aware that I absolutely love The Wire. It is, in my opinion, the best television series ever produced. Head and shoulders above its peers. When people call The Wire Dickensian they’re not exaggerating. It’s more novel than television series.

It belongs in classrooms.

And not just in film and media studies classrooms. The Wire is good enough to be given serious academic study. And over the past few years that’s exactly what its started to get.

Professors at Harvard, U.C.—Berkeley, Duke, and Middlebury are now offering courses on the show.

Interestingly, the classes aren’t just in film studies or media studies departments; they’re turning up in social science disciplines as well, places where the preferred method of inquiry is the field study or the survey, not the HBO series, even one that is routinely called the best television show ever. Some sociologists and social anthropologists, it turns out, believe The Wire has something to teach their students about poverty, class, bureaucracy, and the social ramifications of economic change.

Asked why he was teaching a class around a TV drama, [Harvard Professor William Julius] Wilson said the show makes the concerns of sociologists immediate in a way no work of sociology he knows of ever has. “Although The Wire is fiction, not a documentary, its depiction of [the] systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the urban poor is more poignant and compelling [than] that of any published study, including my own,” he wrote in an e-mail.

For Wilson, the unique power of the show comes from the way it takes fiction’s ability to create fully realized inner lives for its characters and combines that with qualities rare in a piece of entertainment: an acuity about the structural conditions that constrain human choices (whether it’s bureaucratic inertia, institutional racism, or economic decay) and an unparalleled scrupulousness about accurately portraying them. Wilson describes the show’s characters almost as a set of case studies, remarkable for the vividness with which they embody a set of arguments about the American inner city. “What I’m concentrating on is how this series so brilliantly illustrates theories and processes that social scientists have been writing about for years,” he said in an interview.

Anne-Maria Makhulu, a social anthropologist at Duke teaching a course there on The Wire this spring, makes a similar point about the show’s power as a social document. She finds that, for many of her largely upper-middle-class students, issues like poverty and urban deindustrialization are remote from their daily lives, and simply reading about them does little to bridge that gap. The Wire puts faces and stories to those forces—Stringer Bell, the gang leader with the heart of a CFO; Bubbles, the wry, entrepreneurial junkie; “Bunny” Colvin, the police major who grows so disenchanted by the war on drugs that he tries legalizing them in his district.

“There’s this question of how you appeal to young people who feel—not all of them but many of them—far removed from the type of people who are the major characters in The Wire,” Makhulu says.

Of course there are Wire focused courses that take a different tack in studying the series.

What interests Mittell and Williams is the fact that The Wire works despite its subject matter. As a popular entertainment, the series is starting from two rather significant disadvantages: its grim subject matter and the fatalistic worldview of David Simon. Simon has said that the show is meant to be Greek tragedy but with institutions like the police department or the school system taking the place of the gods: the immortal forces that toy with and blithely destroy the mortals below.

Berkeley’s Williams argues that the greatness of the show stems from the way it interweaves realism and Simon’s tragic vision with the sort of melodramatic elements that television demands: the brotherly bond between Stringer Bell and the gang leader Avon Barksdale, Bubbles’ long battle with addiction, the detective Jimmy McNulty’s attempts to rein in his self-destructive impulses, the use of foreshadowing and irony throughout. “It’s not a simple matter of, ‘Oh, it’s so real,’ ” she says. “There’s something about the structure, the use of seriality, and obviously the writing.”

And while the show has often been hailed for its accurate depiction of inner city Baltimore, there are interesting lessons to be had in the creative choices David Simon makes in his portrayal of Baltimore.

Jason Mittell aims to give his students a sense of the particular circumstances that shape The Wire. Among other things, it’s a show written by white men about mostly black characters and a show about the urban poor that aired on a premium cable channel. Mittell argues that for all its vaunted realism The Wire still has a particular audience in mind, and that audience shapes the sort of stories the show tells and the way it tells them.

Take rape. Mittell assigns his students Philippe Bourgois’ book In Search of Respect, an anthropological study of East Harlem crack gangs in the late 1980s and early ’90s. One of the strands that runs through the book is what Bourgois describes as “the prevalence and normalcy of rape.” Rape is not only common among the gang members Bourgois befriended and studied, it is celebrated.

This is a fact that someone who learned everything about drug gangs from The Wire would be aware of only dimly, if at all. Mittell argues that, conscious or not, this was a decision on the part of the show’s creators. Faced with a choice between verisimilitude and drama’s demand that the audience identify with the characters, the show’s creators, Mittell believes, went with the latter. “It could be that with the specific types of dealers and users that Simon and Burns spent time with, rape was not really part of their culture. The other explanation, which I think is more probable, is that if you portrayed these people as rapists you would lose the ability to make them at all sympathetic and human,” says Mittell.

Viewers are willing to sympathize with murderers, whether it’s Stringer Bell, Avon Barksdale, or Omar, because there’s a sense that they still have a certain code. Portraying them as rapists would make that much harder, Mittell argues. “Rape is a more taboo and emotionally volatile crime to portray on-screen than murder,” he says. “Imagine the show Dexter, except instead of being a serial killer, he was a serial rapist.”

Interesting article, worth the read.

December 9, 2009


Filed under: Craft, Friday Night Lights — petertypingfaster @ 1:42 pm

Stumbled across a great interview with Zach Gilford today. It’s mostly about how Gilford approached the role of Matt Saracen, his acting process, but there’s one bit in particular that I wanted to highlight.

LA Times: Matt’s also been given some of the more melodramatic storylines. His grandmother has dementia, he fell in love with her caretaker and last season, Kim Dickens joined the cast to play Matt’s estranged mother. Played the wrong way, some of these plots could have been overly emotional.

Zach Gilford: Kim hit the tone of it perfect. She didn’t play is as, “Oh, my long lost son!” She played it real. Everyone was kind of worried. When I first heard about that storyline I was a little skeptical. I was worried it would get written very cheesy, very TV, which we don’t usually do. We have this expression on the show, where we say, “We’ll ‘FNL’ it.” We take stories that have the potential to be very cheesy and melodramatic and we play them not that way. That’s a testament to way the stories are written, to the filmmakers, to the actors. It’s just the way we’ve been doing the show.

Don’t worry, we’ll FNL it. Great line that. Definitely something to take to heart.

December 8, 2009

The Aughts: When TV Became Art -OR- When Everyone Learned to Shut Up and Trust the Showrunner

Emily Nussbaum has a nice article over at New York Magazine looking at what the past decade has meant for television. All in all its been a pretty special time.

Just listen to the chronology described at the start of the article.

On January 16, 2000 Big Pussy slouched up Tony Soprano’s driveway, hiding his terrible secret. It was the first episode of the second season of The Sopranos, and everywhere, on cable and network, artful programming was on the rise. In April, HBO aired The Corner, the precursor to David Simon’s The Wire; in May, Buffy the Vampire Slayer closed its fourth season with the dream-finale “Restless.” In July, Freaks and Geeks completed its single perfect season. Sex and the City was a national sensation, The West Wing had begun the previous fall, Jon Stewart was finding his feet on The Daily Show, Adebisi was murdered on Oz, and Curb Your Enthusiasm debuted, violating the premise that viewers couldn’t tolerate a hateful protagonist. HBO was in its heyday; TiVo in its infancy. As Sinatra crooned over The Sopranos‘ opening scenes, it was a very good year.

It sure was. It was a good year that led into a great decade. And it really is incredible, looking back, just how good the television of the last decade has been. Add shows like Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Deadwood, Rome, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and on, and on, and on.

The irony of it is that while the decade produced some incredible television shows, it’s also the decade that produced reality television.

Of course, 2000 was also the year Survivor debuted, that bug-eating guilty pleasure critics denounced as the apocalypse. On Fox, Rick Rockwell married Darva Conger on Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, attracting 22 million viewers: a faked-up spectacle, starring unpaid unknowns, yielding a massive jackpot.

Pretty much describes reality tv in a nutshell, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’m not the only one who hoped that reality tv would go the way of Darva Conger’s marriage (she got it annulled a month after the show aired), but that obviously hasn’t happened. And while you could probably call the aughts the decade of reality television, I think you’d be a doing a disservice to the medium.

…for anyone who loves television, who adores it with the possessive and defensive eyes of a fan, this was most centrally and importantly the first decade when television became recognizable as art: collectible and life-changing and transformative and lasting. As the sixties are to music and the seventies are to movies, the aughts – which produced the best and worst shows in history – were to TV. It was a period of exhilarating craftsmanship and formal experimentation, accompanied by spurts of anxious grandiosity (for the first half of the decade, fans compared anything good to Dickens, Shakespeare, or Scorsese, because nothing so ambitious had existed in TV history).

It was an incredible shift in the way people thought. Before the aughts no one in their right mind would think to even mention television in the same breath as Dickens or Shakespeare. This was change with a capital “C.”

To recognize how radical a shift this was, you need to recall the easy contempt television inspired for 50 years, back when it was “the vast wasteland,” “chewing gum for the eyes.” Even the greatest TV creators knew enough to be reflexively self-mocking; they labored in a compromised medium, built to sell soap. But as this decade began, it had already begun to dawn on viewers that television was something that you could not just merely enjoy and then discard but brood over and analyze, that could challenge and elevate, not just entertain. And a new generation of prickly, idiosyncratic, egotistical TV auteurs were starting to shove up against the limits of their medium, stripping apart genres like the sitcom and the cop show, developing iconic roles for actors like Edie Falco and Michael C. Hall. As the years proceeded (and technology inspired new styles of storytelling), even network TV could stage an innovative series like Lost. On pay channels, especially HBO, it was a genuine renaissance: Show-runners like David Chase and Alan Ball and David Milch and Michael Patrick King (and his Sex and the City writers) reveled in cable’s freedom, exploring adult themes in shocking, sometimes difficult ways.

The New York Times pretty much lost its mind over The Sopranos, but even in retrospect, David Chase’s nasty masterpiece was a prescient creation, a symbol of what was taking place across the schedule: It was an auteurist twist on a classic genre, featuring a dislikable protagonist and stylistic risk-taking startling for TV (dream sequences, oddball pacing, film-quality visuals). In the last years of the nineties, Joss Whedon attracted a passionate cult following with his very different but equally ambitious series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, freed not by paid cable but by the invisibility of the WB. Blending teen romance with classic horror, Buffy had adult resonance disguised by its juvenile title and lo-fi looks – and it was the precursor to ambitious genre programming including Veronica Mars, Alias, Battlestar Galactica, Whedon’s Firefly, Lost, and True Blood.

Who would of thought that the creative resurgence of television as a medium would coincide with the rise of empowered showrunners? Showrunners who were given free reign to realize their artistic visions? In a lot of ways the aughts are a mirror image of what happened during the seventies in the feature film world, just substitute writers / showrunners for directors.

Chase’s and Whedon’s very different voices would come to represent the new style of TV making, less sentimental and more freewheeling, willing to alienate viewers, capable of a slow build not over episodes but over whole years – in striking contrast to the slick, interchangeable legal and medical procedurals, the syndication-friendly format that dominated the networks. On HBO, Alan Ball turned Six Feet Under into a stage for questions about mortality. Aaron Sorkin built a liberal holodeck on The West Wing; on FX, The Shield examined the intertwining nature of corruption and heroism. J.J. Abrams co-created the philosophical puzzle-box Lost; David Milch shocked the Western to life on Deadwood; Vince Gilligan interrogated one man’s slippery moral slope on Breaking Bad. On Canadian television (and reruns, thank God, on Sundance), the drily hilarious Slings and Arrows slashed through three matchless seasons from 2003 to 2006. Showtime built its own boutique-cable brand, with naughty series that reveled in dysfunction – the best being Weeds and Dexter (and the loopiest, Ilene Chaiken’s The L Word). The decade of innovation was capped by the rise of Matthew Weiner, another sly, combative auteur inspired and trained by David Chase, whose narcotic Mad Men brought back the watercooler debates of The Sopranos.

Television had always been a pleasure, a mass entertainment. It was by nature collaborative, requiring and rewarding compromise from those who created it. But in the aughts, the best TV-makers displayed the entitlement of the artist, a risk in an industry dependent not only on advertisers but on the willingness of viewers to continue to let you in, week after week. When his online fan base howled at tragic plot turns, Whedon argued, “It’s a mandate: Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.” Chase resisted fan worship of Tony Soprano by grinding our faces in his anti-hero’s repulsiveness. In an interview just before the Mad Men finale, Weiner mused, “You know what, I don’t want to have the tail wag the dog; I don’t want the audience deciding what I do. Because I don’t think in the end they’re the best judges of that.” This doesn’t mean that every nose-thumbing auteur made great TV: Take, for example, Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a tantrum about television, on television. But despite such misfires, there was something revelatory about this personality type, characterologically resistant to people-pleasing, with a bratty – sometimes self-destructive – insistence on a legacy beyond that night’s ratings.

Now I’m just going to ignore all the bits about artistic entitlement and bratty, self-destructive behavior, and instead I’ll focus on the positives. If you look at the list of great shows produced in the last ten years, and then take a look at the writers responsible for those shows, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that behind the majority of these shows stands an empowered, successful showrunner.

It’s something that television writers have been saying for years. If you want great shows, then hire the right writer for the job and get out of the way. We all want to write the next Sopranos or Wire. Get out of the way, let us get on with it, and hopefully the next ten years will be as good as the last.

And if it makes you feel any better you can always fire us if things don’t work out. I don’t think any writer would disagree with that.

Check out the rest of the article. It’s a good read.

December 2, 2009

The Secret to a Great Sitcom: Modern Family, Parks & Recreation and Better Off Ted

Filed under: Better Off Ted, Craft, Modern Family, Parks & Recreation — petertypingfaster @ 6:09 pm

The Boston Globe has an interesting article about the secret behind making a great sitcom. Of course the secret isn’t really much of a secret.

It all comes down to great characters.

It’s a simple idea, but what makes the article worth a read is the analysis of the three shows, and the camps they fall into. In the eyes of the Boston Globe, Modern Family had great characters from the get go. Parks & Rec, while initially troubled, made some key adjustments and is now firing on all cylinders. And Better Off Ted still has some adjustments to make.

The analysis doesn’t stop there though, but goes into detail for each respective show.

Modern Family is a rare pleasure. The family dynamic among the large collection feels thoroughly established, as if their histories are genuinely interwoven…When the three families interact, you can see all the casual intimacy, resentment, stubbornness, and forgiveness of an extended family in play.

Within the group chemistry, each character is finely etched. Among the most vivid are Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), a queeny gay man who once played football, and Gloria (Sofia Vergara), who unwittingly torments her husband with stories of her early sex life. And, of course, there’s Manny (Rico Rodriguez), the little guy who swoons over older girls and fences like a royal prince. These characters are already beautifully established, and yet you can detect the actors’ pleasure as they discover more and more about their roles with each episode.

The effortless tone of the show…is also remarkable. There’s certainly something to be said for punchy, absurdist family comedy; Arrested Development proved that. But Modern Family has immediately established itself as a more conventional vehicle that doesn’t brazenly send up family neuroses so much as heighten them. It proceeds stealthily, pushing Phil’s need to be the “cool dad” just over the line into parody; it makes Mitchell’s anxiety as a new father to an adopted infant easy to identify with and yet ridiculous. The writers make fun of the characters, but they always instill them with heart, backbone, and dignity. We’re laughing at these people, but we’re not kicking them in the gut. It’s affectionate teasing.

It’s that last bit that really sells Modern Family for me. Too often I find big, American sitcoms to be a little too mean spirited for my liking. I don’t really want to spend a lot of time laughing at people, but as long as the ribbing is good natured, and the show has heart, I can get behind it.

And that’s pretty much the adjustment that Parks & Recreation made between its first and second seasons. The show found some heart.

Amy Poehler’s character…

…Leslie was such a profound loser in the first six episodes last spring, it was hard to laugh at her. She didn’t have what the characters in Modern Family have: self-knowledge and a grounded quality that makes them worth rooting for. She was painfully deluded about her own importance as a woman in government.

When Parks and Recreation returned in September, Poehler hd clearly rethought her portrayal. Not only does she now let more of her own playful personality emerge through Leslie…but she gives Leslie a more heroic stance. Along with the writers, she has endowed Leslie with a degree of ingenuity…She is no longer the butt of every joke.

And really that’s the reason for Parks & Recreations creative resurgence. The change in approach to Poehler’s character saved the show, moving it from a terrible cringe comedy, into a truly funny half-hour of television.

Better Off Ted has a slightly different problem than Parks & Recreation. Rather than one weak link dragging the show down, Ted has a decent character ensemble, but no one character to anchor the entire show.

[Better Off Ted] is five supporting characters in search of more depth and heart…Sitcom viewers need to care about the characters and their relationships to one another; we need something to identify with…[Better Off Ted needs a human axis on which to spin.

And really that’s what it comes down. The human axis. That’s the secret to writing a great sitcom.

December 1, 2009

How to Write Good Scene Description

Filed under: Craft — petertypingfaster @ 10:37 am

Writing good description can be tough. A lot of young screenwriters make the mistake of treating their screenplay like a novel, with paragraphs on paragraphs of scene description. Doesn’t even matter if it’s well written novelistic description. A screenplay is a screenplay, and the requirements are different.

So what approach should one take if they want to write good scene description? Go Into Story offers up some good advice.

Screenwriters confront a challenge with scene description. On the one hand, movies are primarily a visual medium and it is scene description that conveys a script’s visuals and action. On the other hand, script readers will, if pressed, scan scene description and focus on dialogue. Why? Dialogue has narrower margins and, thus, can be read faster – a big deal if you’re a reader under a deadline to turn in coverage and/or you’ve got several scripts in your to-read stack. And you can pretty much track what’s going on just by reading dialogue.

So a conundrum: Scene description is critical in conveying a movie’s visuals and action, yet a script reader will often carry a conscious (or unconscious) prejudice against paying close attention to it.

Which results in a few principles re writing scene description:

  • No more than five lines per paragraph of scene description [better yet, 3 lines]
  • Think of scene description more as poetry than prose
  • You do not need to use complete sentences in scene description
  • Use visual descriptors
  • Use strong verbs
  • Aim to create a visceral sense of place, mood, and feel

Here’s a mantra that pretty much sums it up: “Minimum words, maximum impact.”

It’s a good mantra to write by, and one I’m definitely going to try to implement in my own writing.

November 30, 2009

Don’t Hold Anything Back

Filed under: Craft, Sons of Anarchy — petertypingfaster @ 10:26 pm

We all know that I’m a huge fan of Sons of Anarchy, and it’s my pleasure to direct you to a great interview Maureen Ryan did with SoA creator Kurt Sutter. Of particular note is this little tid bit.

Sutter chose not to hold back on any ideas for Season 2. “My sense is, if it’s organic and it works, [putting big events in the story] will create more story. If your characters are real and your relationships are organic you can’t help but create more compelling stories. I think when you start to hold stuff back and try to fill in the spaces in between, that’s when you get network TV.”

I wanted to highlight it because the sentiment behind it is bang on. You should never hold stuff back “for next season,” because there’s never a guarantee that you’ll get a next season (just ask Joss Whedon).

Don’t be afraid to go big, to do the outrageous, unthinkable thing, because at the very least you’ll be able to mine the aftermath for the next episode.

November 24, 2009

Sons of Anarchy: Series Deconstruction

Filed under: Break Downs, Craft, Sons of Anarchy, Specs — petertypingfaster @ 9:51 am

Got a treat for you today. Tommy Gushue, one of the current CFC Prime Time residents, has given me the go ahead to post his deconstruction of Sons of Anarchy. Tommy’s a smart cat, and his breakdown is a great example of what all writers should be doing before launching into their latest spec (for another example check out my earlier breakdown of House).

Series Deconstruction
By Tommy Gushue

Series Overview:
Sons of Anarchy is a partly serialized, partly episodic crime drama that follows the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (commonly referred to by it’s acronym, SAMCRO), an outlaw motorcycle gang based in the fictional town of Charming, California. Although the series would most accurately be described as an ensemble following the “career” and personal lives of the bikers and the women in their lives, there is one character who is at the center of the show, whose point-of-view we largely see events through: Jackson “Jax” Teller, the Vice President of SAMCRO.

Sons of Anarchy premiered in 2007 on F/X. Although receiving largely positive reviews during it’s first season, it could be considered a sleeper hit, as word of mouth and high DVD sales of the first season led to an unexpected climb in success for it’s second season, which saw it average at roughly four million viewers an episode, making it the cable channel’s most successful one-hour drama since Rescue Me. Also worth noting about the second season is that it was regularly the number one scripted one-hour drama amongst the highly sought after 18-49 year-old demographic, beating out network giants such as NCIS, CSI, and Grey’s Anatomy.

In the strictest sense, Sons of Anarchy is a crime drama, although one that is multi-faceted. It can be compared to The Sopranos, in that it provides an inside look into both a specific criminal subculture, and the inner-workings of a family of sympathetic and empathetic criminals. With this, it also quite often delves into areas of a standard family drama. Furthermore, there are elements of police drama, as while the Sheriff, Deputy, ATF agents, and other characters associated with law enforcement are antagonistic to SAMCRO, they are presented as the protagonists of their own stories and subplots.

Although the series is very realistic and grounded in it’s depiction of violence and other disturbing subject matter, Sons of Anarchy is also often darkly comedic in tone.

Sons of Anarchy is very layered and complex, and although there are many themes that arise throughout the series, there are two major themes that are entwined throughout the entire series: Civil war, and change. For the latter to occur, the former is inevitable. There are always undercurrents of a metaphorical civil war brewing not just in the town of Charming, but within the club itself, and these both stem from arguments over the decision to change, or to remain the same. The club not only butts heads with rival criminal organizations from nearby cities, but with other citizens of Charming, including corporate developers, overzealous law officers, and other wealthy, influential residents. The Sons of Anarchy operate with the main goal of protecting Charming, and keeping it sheltered, safe, and true to its name. Although they run illegal weapons to gangs in nearby urban areas, they have a strict code about not allowing crime in Charming. These developers and wealthy citizens don’t understand this. They think that eliminating SAMCRO will end crime and bring progress to Charming. But to SAMCRO, progress means higher populations and higher crime-rates, which would ruin the town they’ve been trying to protect.

The civil war that’s been growing within the club is that between Vice President Jax, and President Clay, who also happens to be Jax’s stepfather. Although Clay has been president of the club since the death of Jax’s biological father in the early nineties, things have been going downhill since then, and Jax aims to lead the club back to their roots, towards the club that his real father, the founder of Sons of Anarchy, had originally envisioned: a more peaceful club, a “traveling commune”, with legal ways of thriving. When Clay makes a judgment call without Jax that leads to the death of a member’s wife, secrets begin forming between members of the club, and as Clay and Jax start to square off, other members begin to choose their sides, thus ramping up the likelihood of a major conflict within the group.

Also, there are very strong Shakespearean influences to the show, the most obvious of which is Hamlet. Where Hamlet’s father, the King, was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, who then married Queen Gertrude for control of Denmark, Sons of Anarchy follows this set-up almost exactly. Jax’s father, John Teller, the founder and president of SAMCRO, died under mysterious conditions. Briefly thereafter, Clay, another member of the club, married John’s wife (Jax’s mother), Gemma, and became the new president. Although it is never come out that Clay was responsible for John Teller’s death, it has been hinted at that there are many dark secrets in SAMCRO’s history. It is expected by many that each season of Sons of Anarchy will follow each act of Hamlet.

In a smart twist, instead of being visited by the ghost of his father, in the pilot of Sons of Anarchy, Jax finds an old manuscript written by his father, entitled: “The Life and Death of Sam Crowe: How the Sons of Anarchy lost their way”.

This manuscript details the history of the club, revealing to Jax not just how far the club has strayed from its original purpose, but also secrets within the club’s history. The similarities between this manuscript and the ghost in Hamlet are intentional: when Gemma discovers Jax has found this, she tells Clay “It’s like John’s speaking to him from the grave.”

Although the club occasionally travels to deal with issues in surrounding towns, Sons of Anarchy is almost entirely set in the fictional Northern California town of Charming, which is almost a character unto itself. Like many real towns across America, Charming is a MC town, living under the thumb of the motorcycle club that inhabits it – and most of the townspeople are okay with that, knowing that the club has the town’s best interests at heart.

The main standing sets are Teller-Morrow Automotive, a mechanic business that, besides standing as a front for the club’s criminal enterprises, is also quite lucrative itself. Various club members work here as mechanics, and it includes the standard garage and office.

Connected to the Automotive is the SAMCRO clubhouse, which includes a bar where members frequently hang out and host parties for other visiting chapters, as well as “The Chapel”, a small conference room where the club meets to discuss important issues.

Other prominent locations include the various homes of the club members, St. Thomas’s Hospital, where Jax’s girlfriend works (and where various members frequently end up following violent altercations), the station house, where the Sheriff, Deputy, and other police officers work, and Lloyd’s Barbershop, a neutral meeting place for club members and law officers. In the second season, two other prominent locations are introduced: the sets and offices of a pornography business owned by a club member’s wife, which the club becomes partners in running, and a cigar shop owned by members of the League of Aryan Nationalists, a white-supremacy group that threatens to destroy the Sons of Anarchy.

The originality of Sons of Anarchy is obvious, in that although it is about a well-known criminal subculture, there has never been a scripted drama about an outlaw motorcycle gang. However, the ingenuity lies in fusing the criminal/family drama with the previously mentioned Shakespearean overtones.

Furthermore, Sons of Anarchy abandons many of the false clichés of motorcycle gangs that have been formed by pop-culture, and instead shows true aspects of the MC world that many people are unfamiliar with, such as the fact that most motorcycle clubs were formed by war veterans who, upon coming home, felt that they couldn’t re-enter normal society, but who nonetheless never intended on forming these clubs with illegal intent. The show is tremendously well researched, and also shows lesser-known elements of the culture, such as “church”, the process by where the club discusses and votes on important issues, “patch-overs”, a form of biker-colonialism, where a motorcycle gang will expand by taking control of smaller outlaw gangs, and the prospect system, of how one becomes a “full-patch” member of a gang.


Jackson “Jax” Teller
Jax is the vice-president of the Sons of Anarchy, and son of club founder John Teller. Jax was born into this club, and knew since he was five years old that one day he will become club president. Loosely based on Hamlet, this prince in waiting is also very philosophical, very calculated and methodical in his planning, and will always argue to wait and analyze an issue from all sides before rushing into conflict. It is suggested several times that he used to be much more hostile and quick-tempered, but upon giving birth to his son and becoming a father (in the pilot episode), he has grown much wiser and has adopted a different outlook on life, one that makes him question the nature of the club and the outlaw lifestyle. Jax isn’t a boy anymore — he’s a man. But now he has to decide what type of man he’s going to be.

Like many younger bikers, Jax is a “Nike-Biker”, who instead of dressing in the standard biker uniform of leather jackets and cowboy boots, often wears sneakers, baggy jeans, and T-shirts. In the words of series creator and actual biker Kurt Sutter “a lot of bikers dress a certain way to try and fit in, look the part. But if you’re 25, and you’re riding with a Death’s Head and VP patch, you know you don’t have to prove anything to anybody.” That sums up Jax pretty well.

Clay Morrow
Clay is SAMCRO’s current president, and youngest of the original nine members. Although being a good friend of Jax’s father, John Teller, he has been married to John’s wife (and Jax’s mother), Gemma, since John’s death. Clay is smarter than Jax gives him credit for, and is incredibly manipulative and cunning, but he often makes decisions based on his emotions. Clay struggles with age and developing symptoms of arthritis, as he literally loses control, and some question whether he is still capable of running the club.

Gemma Teller-Morrow
Continuing with the Shakespearean influence, it is likely that Gemma is based partly on Lady Macbeth. Mother of Jax, and wife of Clay, she is the all-mighty matriarch of not just the Teller-Morrow family, but of the club itself, and is also a Machiavellian schemer and expert in psychological manipulation. Gemma is extremely protective of her boys, and longs for the day when Jax will be ready to assume control over SAMCRO in order to ensure the organization’s survival for another generation. Unbeknownst to even Jax and Clay, many of the plans of SAMCRO succeed because of Gemma’s quiet intervention. It is unknown at this point in the series whether she knows who is responsible for the death of Jax’s father John, but it has been hinted that she knows of many of the club’s dark secrets.

Harry “Opie” Winston
Opie is a member of Sons of Anarchy, and like Jax, who he’s been best friends with since childhood, his father was also a Vietnam veteran and one of the original nine members of the Sons of Anarchy. At the start of the series, Opie has recently been paroled from a five-year stay in prison, and upon returning to Charming and SAMCRO, has struggled to support his family earning “clean” money through his job at a local lumber mill, while facing conflicting pressure from his wife Donna, who wants him to leave the club, and from SOA members, due to his reluctance to devote more time to the club.

Towards the end of the first season, in an attempt to tear apart the club, ATF agents had set-up Opie to look like a rat. When Clay believed that Opie had sold out the club, he made the decision (without the rest of the club knowing) to have Opie killed, but instead, through the fault of the gunman, it was Opie’s wife Donna who was shot and killed. Following Donna’s murder (and after Clay realized Opie was, in fact, not a rat after all), Opie has grown distant from his children, and has fully immersed himself into the club, driven by hate and revenge (and not knowing that members of his own club are actually responsible).

Alex “Tig” Trager
Tig is SAMCRO’s sergeant-at-arms, and Clay’s right-hand man. He’s one of the club’s more violent members, and is frequently called on to perform some of the more dangerous jobs. Though respecting Jax’s intelligence, Tig questions Jax’s ability to lead as the club enters a more brutal era. Tig was the one who was supposed carry out the hit on Opie, but instead accidentally killed Opie’s wife, Donna. Following that incident, Tig has grown depressed and disenfranchised, realizing that Jax was right and Clay was wrong, and that this is causing a major rift within the club.

Bobby “Elvis” Munson
Bobby is SAMCRO’s treasurer, and besides his work with the club, he also works as an Elvis impersonator. A veteran member, he has no family or outside influences, and unlike almost all other members, he refuses to choose a side between Jax and Clay: everything he does, and every decision he makes, he does for the good of the club.

Philip “Chibs” Telford
A member of SAMCRO, and extremely loyal to Jax. He is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, but grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and served as a medic with the British Army, providing him with battlefield experience perfect for his role as the unofficial club medic in medical emergencies. (A “chib” is Scottish street slang for a blade.)

Piney Winston
Piney is Opie’s father, and one of the original nine Sons of Anarchy, who fought with Jax’s father in Vietnam. He has to carry an oxygen tank with him at all times due to emphysema, and is too old to partake in most of the club’s activities, but he remains a prominent figurehead, influential in discussions and votes. He is upset with the direction Clay has taken the club, especially following Donna’s death, and at the end of season one, it’s revealed that he too has a copy of John’s manuscript. He is Jax’s silent partner in getting rid of Clay and bringing change to the Sons of Anarchy, taking it back towards John’s original vision for the club.

Jean-Carlos “Juice” Ortiz
Juice is the club’s hacker and intelligence officer. Though he displays great technical prowess, he has also proven to be somewhat simple minded when it comes to other tasks, often garnering him hazing from the other members. He is also in charge of club surveillance, and manages the club’s intelligence and communication. However, Clay thinks him unreliable, and often gives him only menial tasks.

Kip “Half-Sack” Epps
“Half-Sack”, so named for the fact that he lost a testicle during a tour of duty in the Iraq war, is the club’s prospect: too young and not proven enough to become a full member, he’s indefinitely in training until he proves himself worthy. As such, he is desperate to impress the club, and often takes dumb risks hoping to earn his way in. He’s only called on for real jobs when absolutely needed, but the rest of his time he spends cleaning the Harley’s and brining members beer. He’s also an accomplished amateur boxer.

Dr. Tara Knowles
Jax’s on-again, off-again love interest, she was his high-school girlfriend, but left Charming after high school in an attempt to get away from both small-town life and the heavy-handed influence of the club. She moved back to Charming after becoming a doctor and now works as a pediatric resident at the local hospital, St. Thomas’s, and is often called in to do medical favors for the club, which her superiors at the hospital are beginning to take notice of. Tara faces the constant dilemma of still being in love with Jax, but not wanting anything to do with the club or the biker lifestyle.

Chief Wayne Unser
The Chief of the Charming Police Department, he’s an ally of Clay Morrow, and has been in the pocket of the club for decades, serving as an invaluable asset. A longtime resident of Charming, he cares for the town deeply, and truly believes that the Sons of Anarchy are good for Charming, or at least, are a necessary evil. He suffers from lung cancer, which is forcing him into retirement, something the club does not want to see.

Deputy David Hale
The overzealous Deputy of Charming, Clay and Chief Unser have nicknamed him “Captain America” for his rigid, black-and-white views on crime. He’s a squeaky clean boy scout, who constantly reminds both Chief Unser and members of SOA that it’s only a matter of time before he becomes Chief, and when he does, things are going to be much more difficult for them. However, things change in season two when a wealthy and powerful group of white supremacists come to Charming and Hale is forced to help the Sons of Anarchy, choosing them as the lesser of two evils.

Ethan Zobelle
Ethan Zobelle is the head of the League of American Nationalists, a white separatist movement who attempts to take over Charming and force SAMCRO out. In the beginning of season two, Zobelle moves into Charming and presents himself to the townspeople and local law enforcement as the owner of the newly opened Impeccable Smokes cigar shop on the town’s Main Street. Zobelle is introduced to Deputy Chief Hale though Hale’s older brother, Jacob, who is hoping to benefit financially from Zobelle’s help and the removal of SAMCRO from Charming. Zobelle presents himself as being a means to get SAMCRO out of Charming.

Character Development

As Sons of Anarchy is a very serialized show, almost all of the characters are constantly developing and changing in new ways. Whether some or all will revert back to their old ways is unknown, as the show is still relatively young, but it is likely that they will keep expanding. The series is largely a coming of age tale for Jax, and his rivalry with Clay is a major part of the show. How that plays out will be a series-long arc, so it is likely that those characters and their relationships will remain dynamic.
Virtually all characters have been affected in ways that have them changing at their core. The death of Donna turned Opie, who was once a quiet, hardworking family man, into a bloodthirsty puppet of the club, who has turned against his best friend, Jax, and began following Clay’s every word. The same event turned Trig, a former trigger-happy sociopath, into a passive, depressed, shell of his former self. Deputy Hale, who despises crooked cops and corruption of all kinds, eventually finds himself forced to work alongside criminals, and even Gemma, the always strong mother of the gang, the glue that holds everyone together, finds herself mentally and physically broken after becoming the victim of a cruel planned attack at the hands of the League of Aryan Nationalists.

The major theme and source of conflict in Sons of Anarchy is change, and in less than two seasons, nearly all of the characters have experienced some sort of significant change. It is inevitable that the series will continue down this road.

As Sons of Anarchy draws equally from three popular genres (crime, police, and family drama), there are many areas to go to for stories, and the writers are just as likely to do a story about Gemma worrying that Clay no longer finds her attractive, or Deputy Hale investigating an arson, as they are to do a story about bikers running guns. Taking into consideration the plethora of illegal jobs and missions that the club carries out, the crimes and cases that the Charming police department investigates, and the universal conflicts and problems all families experience, it is unlikely that Sons of Anarchy will ever run out of material to mine from. Combined with that, the serialized nature of the show, the classical influences, and the large ensemble of characters, it is likely that the writers have a clear idea of where the over-arcing stories will go, and where that will take each character.

Visual Style
In fitting with the small-town California setting, Sons of Anarchy uses a very warm, dry color pallet, with lots of natural, earthy tones (browns, oranges, yellows, reds). Many club-affiliated interiors are dark and grimy, such as the clubhouse, the garage, and the warehouse where they store guns, but most of the homes are quite the opposite, fitting the look of a traditional suburban houses.

The camerawork in Sons of Anarchy is very cinematic. Besides the frequent action scenes, which are quite impressive in size and scope, there are many long, moving shots of the club riding in formation.

Due to the serialized nature of Sons of Anarchy, and the fact that it is a cable show, there are very little structural rules to adhere to. Some episodes have multiple storylines, while some have only an A line with scattered character moments. Most episodes front-load sub plots into the earlier acts, and then have the remaining act focus mainly on the main story. Every episode includes each member of the gang in some way, unless for a specific reason (for example, two episodes go by while Bobby is in jail).
There is no specific template for what will happen when at certain points in the episode, and there is no formula for what should happen at each act break. Not every episode has the same number of acts, and in may episodes, earlier acts are significantly longer than later acts, with some acts as long as twenty minutes, and as short as three. The majority of episodes in the second season have a long teaser and four acts, and it seems that this is the structure the show is deciding to continue with.
Many episodes feature Jax and Clay at odds over how to resolve the episode’s main problem, with various characters taking sides, and eventually one of the two men being right, the other wrong, but many episodes do not reflect this at all. In the second season, however, this is much more prevalent, as the aftermath of Donna’s death, and the tension this creates between Clay and Jax, is evident in every episode.

SONS OF ANARCHY Plot Breakdowns
Episode 103 – “Fun Town”
Episode Description:
When the young daughter of a prominent Charming family is attacked during a visiting carnival, rather than going to the police, the father comes to the Sons of Anarchy; he doesn’t want justice, he wants revenge. But when the police discover what has happened, the club must race the authorities to capture the girl’s attacker.
A Plot – The gang races Deputy Hale in finding and capturing a rapist. 36 beats.
B Plot – Following the attack on their warehouse, the gang doesn’t have enough money to pay for their latest shipment of guns. 5 beats.
C Plot – Jax deals with the aftermath of his son’s premature birth. 6 beats.
D Plot – Tara’s ex-boyfriend, an ATF Agent, has followed her back to Charming. 3 beats.
E Plot (Runner) – Juice is dumb and irresponsible. 4 beats.

TEASER – 6:00 – 5 A beats, 4 B beats
1. “Fun Town” traveling carnival has come to Charming. As the guys fool around and play on the rides, Clay, Gemma, and Jax run into Elliott Oswald, his wife, Karen, and their thirteen year-old daughter Tristan. Jax gives Tristan some tickets and she runs off to get on one of the rides. Clay tries to make small talk with Oswald, but Oswald makes a quick and awkward excuse to keep going the other way. He doesn’t want his country club friends to see him talking to the outlaw. A Plot. (1:20)
2. Chibs is on a boat at the harbor, helping some men with a few drums of oil. B Plot. (0:10)
3. Walking through the crowd, Jax and the gang spot a few skinheads. Darby’s gang? They note their presence and pass on. A rude clown in the dunk-tank mocks the crowd to try and dunk him. Jax accepts the challenge, but can’t hit the target. When the clown crosses the line making fun of Jax and the others, Tig just walks up and pushes the target, dropping him in the tank. Jax, Tig and Bobby start to climb over the tank, pushing the clown under the water. A Plot. (0:50)
4. Tristan is on the ride while her parents wander around. Juice runs up to Clay, tells him the Irish are here. Clay tells the guys it’s time to leave. A/B Plot. (0:30)
5. A truck arrives at Teller-Morrow Automotive with the oil drums from the ship. The drums are full of AK-47’s, delivered by the IRA. B Plot. (1:20)
6. As the other guys start to assemble the AK-47’s, Clay explains to Michael, the IRA rep, that their weapons warehouse was burned down by The Mayans, a rival biker gang (as seen in the pilot). Clay can’t buy the guns because he has nowhere to store them – storing them at the garage would directly link them to him and the club, they need a safe location. Michael tells Clay that if he can’t buy the guns, then he’ll need to find a new buyer – and The Mayans are looking for a new supplier. B Plot. (1:20).
7. Karen Elliott panics at the fair, shouting out for Tristan. Gemma finds her, asks what’s going on. Karen explains that they can’t find Tristan. Oswald arrives, saying he’s looked, can’t find her either. They’re both very worried – it’s been an hour since either of them has seen her. B Plot. (0:30)
8. Tristan wakes up in a nearby forest. She’s been raped and beaten. A Plot. (0:10)

ACT ONE – (19:40) 19 A beats, 1 B beat, 2 C beats, 1 D beat, 2 E beats
1. Clay and Jax speak with Chibs at the automotive. Clay says all of their money is tied up in building a new warehouse, he doesn’t have the $200,000 to buy the guns. Jax asks Chibs if he can buy them some time with Michael. Clay tells Chibs to tail Michael to see if he meets with any other potential buyers. An expensive car pulls up – Tig recognizes it as Oswald’s car, explains to Juice that Oswald is one of the richest guys in town. B/A Plot. (1:00)
2. Oswald speaks with Jax and Clay in the office. He tells them his daughter Tristan was beaten and raped last night. Hale took a report, but that was it. Oswald wants the club to find whoever’s responsible and deliver him, and he’ll pay them whatever they want. Clay tells him there’s no charge – this is pro bono. Nobody does this in Charming and gets away with it. Clay says he has one condition: when he delivers the rapist to Oswald, he needs to know that the guy will get what he deserves. Oswald agrees. A Plot. (1:25)
3. The club meets for “Church”, they need to decide what to do. Tig says that with $200,000 due in three weeks, they probably shouldn’t be wasting time, but everyone else wants to do it. Clay says they need to do this for the name and the reputation of the club – they protect Charming. Jax mentions he saw a few skinheads there who could be some of Darby’s guys. Clay orders Juice to look into the police files, see who of Darby’s guys have a history of sexual assault, while Jax is going to go after Darby himself. A Plot. (1:10)
4. Deputy Hale meets with two businessmen who have a deal to buy development land from Oswald. They tell Hale they heard what happened to Oswald’s daughter, and now they fear Oswald is going to go to SAMCRO for vigilante justice. If it’s discovered that Oswald has any ties to SAMCRO, the deal will fall apart. They convince Hale that he needs to find the rapist before SAMCRO does. A Plot. (1:05)
5. Deputy Hale arrives at Teller-Morrow Automotive, says his officers need to question each SOA member who was at the carnival last night. It could take hours. Clay and Jax both realize that this is merely a way for him to delay them while he hunts the rapist himself. A Plot (1:00)
6. At the hospital, Tara questions Wendy, the mother of Jax’s son (two episodes ago, Wendy overdosed, while pregnant, and her son had to be delivered prematurely. After the baby was delivered, Gemma visited her, sneaking in a lethal amount of heroin, and tried to convince her to kill herself with it.) Tara tries to get Wendy to admit that it was Gemma who snuck it in, but Wendy refuses, saying she snuck it in herself. Tara knows what really happened, but can’t prove it. C Plot. (1:30)
7. ATF Agent Kohn calls Tara. They used to date, and now he’s stalking her. As she hangs up on him, Deputy Hale walks by, asks her which way to Tristan. D/A Plot. (0:25)
8. Deputy Hale speaks with Mrs. and Mrs. Oswald at the hospital. He asks them to tell him again what happened, but they don’t know anything else. Mrs. Oswald leaves. Without saying it directly, Hale suggests that he knows that Oswald is working with SAMCRO, and urges him not to. Oswald stays firm, he has to do what he has to do. A Plot. (1:05)
9. As the guys wait to be questioned, Juice tells Half-Sack that Clay wants him to follow Hale. On what? There’s a little kid’s dirt bike there. Half-Sack takes off down the road. A Plot. (0:30)
10. The cops doing the questioning take another coffee break, stretching it out as long as they can. Clay and Jax realize they’ll never catch the guy if they’re stuck here all day. Tig says he’ll take care of it. A Plot. (0:20)
11. Tig mixes sleeping pills with a new pot of coffee. He pours the cops a cup each, and they pass out moments later. The guys all get ready to go. A Plot. (0:50)
12. Charlie and Chibs meet Half-Sack, who’s followed Hale to the carnival grounds. He says Hale has been questioning the Fun Town carnies for an hour. As Hale begins to leave, they send Half-Sack off to keep following him, while they go to talk to the Carnies. A Plot. (0:30)
13. Jax and Chibs try to intimidate the Carnies, but they don’t get anything. All of the Carnies were accounted for when the attack happened. A Plot. (0:45).
14. Gemma goes to the hospital to check up on Abel, Jax’s son who was born prematurely. While there, she sees Darby, head of a Skinhead group in a neighboring town. C/A Plot. (0:25)
15. Tig and Bobby arrive back at the Automotive, tell Clay they can’t find Darby anywhere. Juice runs up, tells Clay that he looked into it, and two members of Darby’s crew have arrests for sex crimes. He shows them the mug shots, and Tig identifies one of them as one of the skinheads they saw last night, a guy named Johnny Yates. Gemma calls Clay, tells him she found Darby. He’s at the hospital. Tig gives Juice a bag of AK-47’s, tells him to load them up, and also gives him the baggy of sleeping pills to store, but doesn’t tell him they’re sleeping pills. A/E Plot. (0:50).
16. Jax talks to Chief Unser at Lloyd’s barbershop. Asks him for intel on Hale’s investigation. Unser says Hale’s got nothing yet. No leads, no clues, no witnesses. The only one who saw anything was Tristan, and she’s saying she can’t remember anything. As Jax is leaving, Unser tells them that no matter what, one of them needs to find the guy responsible. A Plot. (1:15)
17. Gemma chats up Darby at the hospital, delaying him until Clay, Bobby, and Tig finally arrive. They ask Darby if he knows anything. Clay says he knows Johnny Yates was at the carnival last night, and Yates has a record of sex crimes. Darby tells them that Yates was kicked out of his gang a long time ago, tells Clay where to find him. After Darby leaves, Bobby says he doesn’t believe him, thinks that Darby could tip off Yates, might be leading them into a trap. Just as they’re all leaving the hospital, they see Deputy Hale arriving, with Half-Sack still tailing him on the little dirt bike. A plot. (3:25)
18. The guys meet up at the Automotive, they’re getting ready to go after Johnny Yates. They find the bag of AK’s, grab them and leave. In the back room, Juice is passed out on the floor, the spilled baggie of sleeping pills next to him. A/E Plot. (0:25)
19. Jax, Clay, Bobby, Tig, and Chibs scout Johnny Yates cabin. They’re “gone dark”, not wearing their patches, which means they’re about to do something very illegal. They see that Yates’ cabin is fortified, security cameras and armed guards. Tig rips open the bag to find that the AK’s don’t have clips in them – they can’t depend on Juice for anything. So now they have to do this without guns… or at least, without bullets. A Plot. (0:40)
20. They storm the cabin, take out the guards, and burst in, guns pointed – to find a minister speaking to a roomful of men, all reading along in their bibles. A Plot. (1:00)

ACT TWO – (10:50) – 9 A beats, 0 B, 2 C, 1 D, 1 E
1. Johnny Yates explains to Clay and the guys that he’s a saved man now, he hasn’t acted out sexually in over three years. Looks like they got some bad information. The priest tells Clay and his guys to stay, he can help save them too. They politely decline. A Plot. (0:40)
2. Deputy Hale speaks to Tara at the hospital, asks her if Tristan has said anything else, asks Tara if she can speak to her. Tara declines, they need to leave her alone, she doesn’t know anything. Tara then asks Hale – if she has a restraining order against someone in another state, does it still hold if that person goes to another state. Hale says he’ll look into it. He’s willing to help her, he just hopes she’ll do the same for him. A/D Plot. (1:20)
3. Gemma brings Wendy flowers at the hospital. Wendy says she didn’t tell anyone what Gemma did. Gemma just gave her an option – she’s the one who made the choice. Nothing gets in the way of her taking care of her family, especially her conscience. C Plot. (1:40)
4. Mrs. Oswald blasts Deputy Hale for trying to question Tristan without permission. She doesn’t want anyone traumatizing her daughter. Gemma overhears this. A Plot. (0:20)
5. the pills. Start planning what they’re going to do with him. E Plot. (0:20).
6. Jax goes to the hospital, finds Gemma reading to Abel. He says the hunt came to a dead end. Oswald comes up to Jax. Gemma goes back in with Abel, Oswald talks to Jax alone. He says they can’t find anything. Jax says he needs to talk to Tristan again, Oswald says absolutely not, she’s still in shock. Jax says it’s the only way they’ll get anywhere. Gemma overhears all of this. C/A Plot. (1:35)
7. Gemma enters Tristan’s room, she’s awake. Tristan says her mom told her not to talk to anyone. Gemma sits down with her, tells her she knows what happened, she’s sweet, motherly, comforts her. A Plot. (0:50)
8. Gemma tells Mrs. Oswald she talked to Tristan, who’s incredulous. Tristan remembers everything, but Mrs. Oswald doesn’t want the trial, the press. Gemma tells her you can’t bury the truth, it will ruin her in the long run. Mom says if they arrest the guy, it becomes real. Then Tristan will always be known as the girl who was raped at Fun Town. Gemma tells her, in her mind, she always will be the girl who was raped at Fun Town. And the only thing worse than everyone knowing, is no one knowing. A Plot. (1:45)
9. Gemma comes back into the hospital, tells Jax that Tristan identified the rapist: fat guy, dressed as a clown. The guy from the dunk tank. Jax asks if Hale knows – not yet. As Jax quickly exits the hospital, Deputy Hale meets eyes with him, knows something must be up. A Plot. (0:30)
10. Hale rushes outside, is about to follow Jax, but sees his tires have been slashed. Jax disappears on his bike, leaving Hale behind. A Plot. (0:10)
11. The whole gang rolls up on Fun Town. It’s late, the rides are all shut down. The Carnies are just hanging out, smoking, when they see Jax, Clay, and the rest of the guys approaching them. They heard they’ve been harboring a fugitive. Citizen’s arrest. A huge brawl erupts, The Sons all fight the carnies, the Sons kick ass, grab the rapist, and drag him away. A Plot. (1:40)

ACT THREE – (3:30) 2 A beats
1. Deputy Hale arrives at Fun Town, has all of his cops handcuff the Carnies. The Sons got here first, and the guy they’re after is gone. Find him. A Plot. (0:30)
2. Oswald arrives at a small forest off the highway, the guys have the rapist tied up and gagged. Clay gives Oswald a knife. They strip him. Clay urges him to go forward with it, the guy’s trying to scream, but Oswald can’t do it. He drops the knife, apologizes. Oswald leaves, broken. Clay takes out a different knife, and castrates the rapist, tells the guys to throw him in the woods, let him bleed out. Then Clay tells Tig to pick up Oswald’s go knife and bag it. Jax realizes there’s something else going on now – Clay tells him they’ve got Oswald’s fingerprints on a knife. This is leverage, and now they can make sure that his housing development deal doesn’t go through. Jax is appalled, Clay said he was doing this to protect the community, when really it was about blackmail the whole time. Clay tells him, higher population means more cops, then SAMCRO gets weeded out by the greasiest gang of all – old white money. Jax watches Clay leave, conflicted. A Plot. (3:30)

ACT FOUR – (4:00) – 1 A beat, 2 C beats, 1 D beat
1. Clay sits on the roof of Teller-Morrow, reading John’s manifesto, which we hear in a voiceover – thematically relevant. The true outlaw makes the decisions based on the passion in his heart, and the logic in his brain, an equal mix of might and right. A Plot. (0:30)
2. Agent Kohn is in his office, doing research on Sons of Anarchy, looking at files for Tara and Jax. D Plot. (0:30)
3. Jax visits Wendy in the hospital. Doesn’t want her hurting itself over this. He left her alone when she was pregnant, he wasn’t ready for a kid either. C Plot. (1:00)
4. He takes her in to see Abel, it’s her first time seeing him. He’s so small. He has to stay in the incubator. He tells her she has to go to rehab. C Plot. (1:00)

TAG – (1:40) – 1 D beat, 1 E beat
1. Deputy Hale finds Juice in a parking lot, just waking up – wearing only a diaper, a cardboard sign glued to him, says “I’m a retarded baby, please adopt me.” Juice wanders off down the road. Just as Hale is leaving, someone calls out to him. It’s Agent Kohn. He introduces himself, says he’s from ATF, investigating an interstate weapons case, it may involve an outlaw biker gang called the Sons of Anarchy. Have you heard of them? Hale smiles, “Welcome to Charming.” E/D Plot. (1:40)

Episode 105 – “Giving Back”
Gemma does a local woman a favor by allowing her ex-husband to attend a town fundraiser – her ex-husband who used to be a member of SAMCRO, but who was kicked out of the club and told never to come back to Charming. As Jax, Opie, and the rest of the club are forced to deal with their history with this man, Clay deals with a security job protecting a perverse parolee, and ATF Agent Kohn continues to investigate the club.
A plot – The club deals with the return of a former member. 25 beats.
B plot – The club protects a recently released man from the Chinese mob. 11 beats.
C plot – The club finds out about Agent Kohn. 4 beats.

TEASER – (9:00) – 4 A beats, 4 B beats, 1 C beat
1. Inside a prison, Chinese inmates chase after a guy, try to shank him. Otto, a Son of Anarchy currently serving time saves him. We find out this inmate, Chuck, is getting out tomorrow. He thanks Otto, tells him he’s a true friend, and then sticks his hand down his pants and starts playing with himself. Otto: “Yeah, don’t mention it…” B Plot (0.55)
2. Opie gives Jax an old crib, his son’s. Donna, Opie’s wife, finds out that Opie is going to be taking care of the fireworks at the fundraiser that night. Opie assures her it’s not a club thing. A Plot (1:00)
3. Gemma’s getting the SAMCRO booth ready for the town fundraiser that night. A woman, April, asks Gemma for a favor – her son Charlie’s band is playing, she wants to know if his dad can come. The Dad, April’s ex-husband, used to be a member of the Sons, but was kicked out, and told never to come back to Charming. She’s not asking for her husband, she’s asking as a favor to her son, he wants his Dad to see him play. Gemma says she can’t promise anything, but she’ll mention it to Clay. A Plot (1:05)
4. Jax and Clay meet with Otto at the prison, Otto says Chuck is getting out, people are after him, he’s going to need protection. He’ll pay them a lot to keep him safe. Otto mentions that Chuck has… a couple of issues. B Plot (1:00)
5. Gemma mentions the April situation to Clay, asks if her husband Kyle can come to the fundraiser. After what he did to Opie? Clay says no way, he’s banned. Gemma says it’s not for Kyle, it’s for his son. Clay says he’ll put it to a vote, but it’s not going to pass. A Plot (1:10)
6. Jax is at the hospital, reading to Abel. Agent Kohn sees him, stands there, and he sees Kohn (not knowing who it is). He goes out to see what’s up, Kohn says it’s a beautiful boy, then just leaves. Jax wonders what that was all about. C Plot. (0:50)
7. Clay tells the gang at Church that Chuck has been keeping books for the Chinese gang, then ratted them out, now they’re after him. They’re going to do the protection job, protect him from the Chinese. They all agree. Then Clay mentions the Kyle situation. Everyone is against it, but Clay says that April supported the club even after they banned Kyle. To everyone’s surprise, Opie agrees to let him come. He says that Kyle lost his wife, his kids, and the club. He must be broken, and Opie wants to see that. As they all pile out, Clay tells Jax to keep an eye on Kyle while he’s in Charming. B/A Plot (2:00)
8. Chuck is released from prison, thinks the Chinese are after him already, but it’s not them. The gang arrives, picks him up. He gets in the van with Clay and Jax, thanks them so much for agreeing to help him… then starts playing with himself again. Jax and Clay just look at each other. B Plot (1:00)

ACT ONE – (11:00) – 7 A beats, 1 B beat, 1 C beat
9. The guys are at the fundraiser, they see Kyle arrive. He’s got his new girlfriend with him, he says hi to his kids, who he hasn’t seen in ages. April pulls him aside, tells him this was a bad idea. As the guys all watch Kyle from afar, Bobby arrives in his Elvis costume. Gemma blasts Bobby for being late, then he goes on, starts performing for the kids A Plot (1:25)
10. Opie arrives with Donna and his kids. Donna sees Kyle, asks if that guy is with the club. Not anymore. Jax finds Opie, Opie explains Donna doesn’t know about Kyle. Opie sees Kyle, realizes, to his disappointment, that Kyle actually looks pretty happy. A Plot (0:50)
11. Jax confronts Kyle, tells him to tell away from everyone in the club. He tells Jax he has something for the club, he has this thing going on, he’s making a lot of money, he wants to bring it to SAMCRO, as a way of making things right. Jax grabs him by the collar, shoves him against the wall, tells Kyle he can’t buy them back. A Plot. (1:10)
12. They get Chuck a beer. He tells them, while he was working the books for the Chinese mob, he was skimming some for himself, now he has $400,000 stashed away. As he’s explaining this, he starts playing with himself again. Clay finally asks him what his deal is – he didn’t even realize he was doing it, he has CMD – chronic masturbation disorder, and he hasn’t been able to get the right meds while in prison, so it’s a bit out of control. Piney says he used to have the same thing – then he turned thirteen. Clay tells Chuck he doesn’t care what disorders he has, if he does it again while he’s around, he’s going to tie him up and throw him in the closet. B Plot (1:45)
13. Tara is at the hospital, sees Agent Kohn there waiting for her. Asks her if they can talk. He says he’s there on business, investigating the Sons of Anarchy. Says he doesn’t want to see her get hurt by Jax. She tells him the restraining order is still in effect. He says his jurisdiction overrules that, but tells her he’ll do whatever she wants. C Plot (1:40)
14. Bobby poses for pictures. Guys do their thing. Kyle plays with his kids, egg toss, Opie sees, asks his daughter if she wants to play. She doesn’t want to. He sees how happy Kyle looks, and he’s hurt. He goes to get the fireworks ready. A Plot (1:10)
15. Gemma asks Jax how the guys are handling Kyle. Says Opie doesn’t look too happy. A Plot (0:20)
16. Jax talks to Opie. Opie wanted to see Kyle miserable, but now Opie’s miserable, and Kyle’s doing great. Opie says the club means everything to him, but Donna’s trying to pull him out, his family life is bad, so now he’s losing on both ends. Still watching Kyle, they see the egg break on him, and as he pulls off his shirt, we see his undershirt come up, revealing, he still has a big SAMCRO tattoo on his back – this is a big deal, he was supposed to get that blacked out. Jax is about to go after him, but Opie stops him, says he wants to handle this himself. A Plot (1:30)
17. Opie follows Kyle into the gym, but Kyle is with his son, Charlie. He sees Opie coming, tells Charlie he’ll talk to him later, get going. Kyle starts trying to explain himself, say he wanted to come back to apologize, but – Opie decks him. A Plot (0:50)

ACT TWO – (7:00) – 3 A beats, 3 B beats, 2 C beats
1. Donna watches Jax play with the kids. He goes to talk to Donna, things are going rough for her and Opie, what with him just getting out of jail. He tries to defend the club, tells her that being half-in, half-out is bad for both the club, Opie, and her. She says, then in that case, she wants Opie out completely, like that other guy, Kyle. Jax breaks the news to her – Kyle didn’t leave, he was kicked out. The night Opie was arrested, Kyle was supposed to be his getaway, but when he heard sirens, Kyle fled, abandoning Opie. Opie didn’t say anything because he’s not a rat. Opie will never leave the club. Jax doesn’t want to see Opie leave her, so she needs to give him some freedom. A Plot (2:00)
2. Jax finds Opie and Kyle, just after their fight, but they’re doing okay now. They “sorted it out”. Kyle tells Jax how much he misses the club. With the club, he was respected, but without the patch, he’s just a nobody. Jax tells Opie about Kyle’s deal, Kyle explains he dealing stolen car parts. He wants to make good with the club, begs him to bring it to Clay. Jax asks Kyle if he can meet with them that night. No problem. Opie asks Kyle, what about your kids band? Kyle says he can see them anytime. Opie slow-burns. A Plot (1:30)
3. A woman at the garage deals with Clay while he looks for her receipt. He leaves to go get it, Chuck comes in, masturbating. The woman runs off, but she hasn’t paid. Clay sees what happened, pissed off. But as he looks down the road where the woman drove off, he sees a passing car of Chinese mobsters, watching the garage. B Plot (1:00)
4. Clay tells Chuck they need to go to the Chinese restaurant where he hid the money now, he can’t deal with him anymore. Chuck says it’s bad time, they’re still open now, but Clay doesn’t care. B Plot (0:40)
5. Bobby and Tig ask Gemma if she’s seen Jax, says Clay is calling them all in. Gemma’s upset that the Clay is making the guys leave the fundraiser, they’re supposed to be helping out. B Plot (0:30)
6. Tara is looking for Jax at the fundraiser, but when she sees Agent Kohn at the police booth, she turns and leaves. Gemma sees this, asks Sheriff Unser who that is. He tells her, Agent Kohn, ATF. C Plot (0:40)
7. Bobby and Tig find Jax and Opie with Kyle, tells them Clay is calling them. They ask Jax what he’s doing with Kyle, he says he’ll explain on the way. As they’re leaving the fundraiser, they see Agent Kohn. Asks Gemma who that is. It’s Agent Kohn, from the ATF. Jax tells Gemma that he was at the hospital last night, watching him and Abel. He tells Gemma that if Kohn leaves, to let him know. A/C Plot (1:00)

ACT THREE – (4:40) 3 B beats
1. The club ride with Chuck in the van, they’ve got his hands duct-taped together. They pull up outside the restaurant. They need to hurry, the Asians are probably following them. B Plot (0:45)
2. They enter the Chinese restaurant, the old Chinese lady who owns the place is yelling at Chuck to get out. They all burst into the kitchen, the lady yelling at them to leave. Jax break open the part of the ceiling where it’s hidden, while the lady threatens to call the cops on them. Jax pulls out the bag of money. B Plot (1:10)
3. Outside, Tig tells them the Chinese are there. They pile in the van, but the parking lot exits are all blocked off by gang cars – the van is being shot full of holes, Chinese gangsters firing at them. Inside the van, Clay realizes the bag full of money is all counterfeit. Yeah, that’s what Chuck was stealing from them. Clay shouts out the window, wants to speak to Lin, the head of the Chinese gang. He makes an offer – he gives them the counterfeit money they were after, and hands over Chuck in exchange for $60,000. As the Chinese gangsters drag off Chuck, Jax glares at Clay, knowing this isn’t right. B plot (2:40)

ACT FOUR – (8:00) – 11 A beats (including montage)
1. That night at the club house, Kyle arrives. Clay asks him to tell him about the deal. Opie says they’re going back to the fundraiser. Before Opie leaves, Jax stops him, asks him if he’s okay with this. He says he is. He’d rather be dead than be like Kyle. A Plot (1:00)
2. Charlie’s band is getting ready to play, April asks Gemma if she knows where Kyle is. April says last time she saw him, he was with Jax and Opie. Gemma goes to talk to Jax. A Plot (0:20)
3. Kyle drinks and laughs with the gang. Just like old times. Bobby brags to him, he’s got a mint-condition 1948 Harley in the back. You wanna’ see? They all go into the back… A Plot (0:30)
4. Charlie’s band is tuning up, ready to start. Kyle isn’t there. Gemma sees Opie arriving, we don’t hear what they say, but whatever Opie tells her, it comes as a shock. A Plot (0:20)
5. They arrive in back, Kyle doesn’t see the bike. They lock the door behind them, circle Kyle. Take your shirt off. Uh-oh. Bobby punches Kyle, Tig pulls his shirt off. Kyle starts apologizing, he couldn’t bring himself to black it out. The club is all he has left, he can’t lose it forever. “Fire or Knife?” Kyle pleads to Jax to help him. Kyle realizes he can’t avoid this. Fire. They pass him a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, he chugs half of it, they chain his arms, then pour the rest on his back. A Plot (2:10)
6. Charlie’s band starts, playing Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen”. Charlie knows his Dad isn’t there. April finds Gemma, asks her again if she’s seen Kyle. She tells her she should probably wait for him at the hospital. “Oh my god…” A Plot (0:40)
MONTAGE, set to “Eighteen” –
7. Tig goes at Kyle with a blow torch. Kyle burns, screaming, his whole back on fire.
8. At the fundraiser, Opie’s kids run up to him. He hugs them, and they watch the fire-works together.
9. Kyle burns. It’s painful, hard to watch, but they force themselves, not to look away. Different emotions – Clay enjoys it, relishing the revenge. Bobby doesn’t want to see anybody go through something so brutal, but this is for Opie. Half-Sack, realizing what a truly savage world he’s found himself in.
10. The band plays on…
11. They cut Kyle down. He’s passed out now, his SAMCRO backpiece replayed with a horrible scar covering his entire back.
12. A van pulls up at St. Thomas’s Hospital, throw something out the back and drive off – it’s Kyle, wrapped up in a blanket.
13. Half-Sack cleans up the mess in the garage.
14. Jax sits on the roof of the garage, brooding, staring off into the night. 5 A Beats (3:00)

Episode 208 – “Potlatch”
Zobelle and the League of American Nationalists reach out to SAMCRO rivals, increasing tensions within the club, forcing Clay to reach out to an old associate for help. Further complicating things, the porno company that the club recently decided to partner with is attacked and ransacked by a rival porno producer.
A Plot – The club deals with suspicions that their old allies and arms dealers in the IRA are now working with Zobelle. 10 beats.
B Plot – Jax gets payback on a rival porn producer, but has a run in with The Mayans along the way. 11 beats.
C Plot – The feud between Jax and Clay continues. 10 beats.
D Plot – Chibs is in intensive care following the car-bomb attack. 3 beats.
E Plot – Gemma gets Tara in trouble at the hospital. 3 beats.

TEASER (9:14) – 2 A beats, 0 B beats, 3 C beats,
1. Tara, who is now Jax’s steady girlfriend, tells him she finished reading John’s manuscript. Jax says he wants change, but he keeps making the same mistakes. Jax says change won’t happen without blood. C Plot
2. Gemma talks to Clay about the fight with Jax, it’s in his DNA to challenge him. The ghost of his old man is haunting him. Gemma wants to have a dinner tonight. They need it, to calm things down, make everyone civil again, bring peace. C Plot
3. Jax asks Hale, asks what he told Stahl. She’s after the Sons. They both know Zobelle is the real enemy, and if ATF breaks the Sons, Zobelle will take over. Hale needs to look at the big picture. A Plot
4. Half-Sack tells the guy about his operation, he’s got a new prosthetic testicle. Tig asks if it’s gay that he kind of wants to see it. Half-Sack pulls down his pants, just as Clay walks in. He’s finally a real boy.
5. All the guys except for Jax and Clay talk about the Jax-Clay beef, that’s been heating up ever since Donna’s death. Opie asks if it has anything to do with Donna, but Tig, feeling paranoid, assures him otherwise. They think the beef is over Jax pushing for change. They decide that it’s up to them to solve it and bring the club back together. Then Jax comes in, they all scatter, he’s suspicious. C Plot
6. Clay meets with Oswald. He wants Clay to help him with Jacob Hale, Deputy Hale’s brother, who is now working with Zobelle. He’s on town council, running for mayor, and they want Oswald’s land. Clay says in return, he needs a piece of land, something hidden, off the radar. It’s to build a new warehouse to store guns. As a show of good faith, Clay gives him a knife – the knife with Oswald’s fingerprints from “Fun Town”. Now Clay has nothing on him – they can trust each other. A Plot

ACT ONE – (11:10) – 4 A beats, 4 B beats, 2 C beats, 2 D beats
1. Jax shows up at the CaraCara studio, the porno business that the club is now a partner in, which is ran by Luanne, Otto’s wife. Luanna is waiting by her red corvette, with the licesne plate “XXX DIVA”. All the girls are outside, crying, upset, as Luanne tries to comfort one of them, Lyla. She tells Jax that someone broke in, stole their camera, and her laptop, which has four rough cuts on it. Jax asks what happened to the guard dog? B Plot
2. She shows him, the dog has been killed, with “Dead Bitch” spray-painted on the wall above it. Luanne says that Lyla, one of her top starlets, is scared, she needs protection. Jax says he’ll get Opie on it. They’ve been spending some time together recently. B Plot
3. Clay and Tig sits down with Lin, head of the Chinese gang – last time they met, there was trouble. Lin says he needs guns, AK’s, he’ll pay double for however many he can get them. As a show of good faith, Lin throws in a gift – Chuck. They see Chuck’s hands are bandaged up – they broke his fingers so he can’t masturbate, and left him his two index fingers, so he can still use a calculator. Clay doesn’t want him. Chuck says if they don’t take him, Lin will kill him, but Clay doesn’t care. Tig, who’s been having a crisis of faith in Clay, tells Lin they’ll take him. Chuck can do the books at CaraCara, freeing up Bobby. Clay doesn’t like Tig questioning his decisions, wonders where Tig’s alliances are. A/C Plot
4. Tig asks Clay where they’re going to get AK’s to sell. They can’t go to the Irish, ATF are after them. They’ll go to Edmonds – and if he won’t sell it to them, that’ll prove that Zobelle has gotten to him. Opie gets a call from Jax, he needs to go to CaraCara. He takes Chuck with him. A/C Plot
5. Chibs wakes up in the hospital in intensive care – last episode, he was the victim of a car-bomb attack. There’s a woman sitting in his room with him. We have no idea who she is, but she knows Chibs, she seems warm, compassionate. D Plot
6. Jax and Bobby talk to Luanne at CaraCara. The camera is insured, but the roughcuts are worth thousands. They think Georgie Caruso, a rival porn producer who they intimidated a couple of episodes ago must have done it. Jax and Luanne see Opie and Lyla, who are starting to look cozy together. Jax calls Opie, says they’re going after Georgie. Jax invites Luanne, Opie, and Bobby to Gemma’s dinner that night. Opie tries to get out of it, says he has to take care of the kids, but Jax tells him to bring them. Bring Lyla too, if he wants. B Plot
7. Jax goes outside, sees Chuck out there. Bobby explains that they’ve brought him in to work with CaraCara – and worse, now with his hands, he can’t masturbate. A cruel irony. B Plot
8. The club all visit Edmunds, ask him where his AK’s are. He says he sold them to someone else, but won’t say who. They know that he’s lying, he must be with Zobelle now. They leave. Clay thinks the guns are in the house somewhere, he tells Half-Sack to stake it out, see if anyone else comes to pick them up. A Plot
9. Back inside Edmunds house, we see he’s been sleeping with Zobelle’s daughter. A Plot
10. Gemma visits Chibs in the hospital, sees the other woman there with him. Chibs is asleep. She asks the woman why she’s there, says this is a bad time, the last thing they need is Chibs distracted and confused. Tara enters, sees this woman, says ICU is for immediate family only. This woman is Chibs’ wife. D Plot

ACT TWO – (6:30) – 1 A beat, 3 B beats, 1 C beat, 1 D beat, 1 E beat
1. Chuck enters Georgie’s office building, tells the huge bodyguard he has a demo reel for Georgie. The bodyguard takes the CD, walks into Georgie’s office. As he does, Chuck opens the door, says Georgie is in. The Bodyguard comes back, says not interested, Chuck pokes him in the eye and runs off. As the bodyguard chases him out the door, Jax, Opie, and Bobby slip in, tell the girls there to get lost. B Plot
2. Jax, Opie, and Bobby burst into Georgie’s office, beat him up, take back Luanne’s laptop, take his laptop, and drop it into the fish tank. That’s for the dog. Opie tells him if he ever contacts Lyla again, he’ll kill him. As they leave Georgie there, he tells them they’ve got no idea what they’ve started. The desperate attempts by a weak man to save face. B Plot
3. Tara and Gemma talk at the hospital, is worried about this woman. Tara tells her Chibs is going to have to be moved to another hospital in the next town over, but Gemma says that can’t happen. He’ll be unprotected. There has to be something they can do. The Chief-Administrator of the hospital walks by. Tara points her out, says she’s been all over Tara about the favors she’s been doing. If she does anything else to raise suspicion, she’ll be fired. Gemma follows the woman, gets in the elevator with her. D/E Plot
4. Tig asks Clay about the beef with Jax, asks if there’s anything he can do. Clay questions Tig, Tig assures him he’s still there for him. Half-Sack calls, says Westen is there to pick up the guns. Clay orders him to follow, the guns, then tells Tig to round up the guns, they’re going after them. C/A Plot
5. Jax, Opie, and Bobby go into Laroy’s bar (Laroy is their contact in a street gang called the One-Niner’s. However, when they enter, they see the place is full of Mayan’s, a rival Hispanic biker gang. The Mayans outnumber them, pull guns on them. B Plot

ACT THREE – (7:00) – 1 A beats, 3 B beats, 2 C beats
1. Clay, Tig, and Happy show up to where Half-Sack is hanging out, tells them Weston has the guns just up ahead. Half-Sack asks where the rest of the guys are, but Clay says they’re not answering their phones. They’re going to have to get the guns back themselves. A Plot
2. Clay and Opie are sat down, armed Mayans watching them. Opie asks him what’s going on with him and Clay. Says they can talk about anything, but Jax says they haven’t been able to lately, not since Donna’s death. Jax tells him he feels like he’s losing everything, and if he sides with Clay, more stuff is going to go downhill. B/C Plot
3. Alvarez, the Mayans’ President, enters, says this is a warning, to stop working with gangs who The Mayans have beef with. He orders the Mayans to take their cuts. Jax says the only way he’s going to take his cut off is if they kill him. Alvarez puts a gun to Jax’s head, but Jax dares him to pull the trigger. Killing the Vice President of the head chapter will have every SAMCRO member in the country gunning for him. Opie sees how devoted to the club Jax is, maybe he’s right about Clay. Alvarez spits on Jax’s patch, tells him the next time any Son walks into Mayan territory, they’re getting killed. B/C Plot
4. Deputy Hale arrives at a crime scene, a body was found in the woods. We don’t see who it is, but it’s a woman. She was beaten to death, probably with a bat. We see on the side of the road, a red corvette with the license plate “XXX DIVA”. B Plot
5. Clay, Tig, Happy and Half-Sack corner Weston in a parking lot, steal the AK’s at gun point. Just as they do, Weston’s Aryan guys show up, a shootout erupts in the parking lot, and Clay and the guys escape with the guns. A Plot

ACT FOUR – (6:00) – 2 A beats, 1 B beat, 2 C beats, 2 E beats
1. Gemma’s potlatch, the women all getting dinner ready. Tara arrives. Tells Gemma she’s had a “hostile work environment” claim filed against her by the administrator because Gemma threatened her. Gemma claims she simply had a “passionate conversation” with her. Tara is incredulous, says she could get fired. Tara sees Lyla there. “We’re serving hand-jobs for desert?” E Plot
2. Jax, Bobby, and Opie arrive, Opie sees Lyla walking away, almost crying. “That doctor is an arrogant bitch… sorry, Jax.”
3. Zobelle meets with Alvarez and the Mayans. He’s giving them guns – not selling. Alvarez explains why Zobelle won’t let him pay for them, and Zobelle explains, he’s a venture capitalist. He’s investing in them. Zobelle is arming the Mayans so that they will destroy SAMCRO, and then he’ll deal with the Mayans later. A Plot
4. At Gemma’s dinner, Jax tells Tara to go easy on Lyla. Tara apologizes, says if she hangs around this family and this club an longer, she might end up sucking dick to pay the bills too. E Plot
5. Clay arrives with Tig and Half-Sack and Happy, asks Clay where the hell he was earlier. Bobby defends Jax, Tig tells him they almost got killed trying to get their guns back. Bobby tells him not to talk club business here in front of the families, and Tig pushes him. A scuffle breaks out with all the guys, and Opie finally defends Jax. Then, they all stop, see Deputy Hale coming in. He figured he should tell them in person – Luanne was found dead, beaten to death. A/B/C Plot
6. Clay tells Jax this was his fault – going for payback without the consent of the club. Jax tells Clay that he’s not the one murdering women – as this causes another huge uproar, Gemma silences everyone by smash a plate. Gemma sits down and starts eating by herself, as everyone else just stares in shock. C Plot

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